Grandma Joan This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 27, 2011
Every time the wind dances its way through the trees, brushes its delicate fingers past my hair, and sings a perfect harmony as it starts the chorus of wind chimes, I think of my Grandma Joan. With every sound of rain, smell of desserts baking in the oven, and smile that I see, I think of her. She is my role model, my hope, my laughter, the music when I sing, my grandmother. I have never met her. Every holiday my family tells stories about her personality that apparently is almost exactly like mine. She was quirky, talkative, funny, and lovable. I feel like I know her, which makes it that much harder to accept that I'll never be able to meet her. With every crackle of a fire, step of a shoe, or drip of an icicle anyone in my house could hear me asking "did Grandma Joan like winter?" or "What was her favorite song?" I wanted to know everything I could about her. With each story that would whisper past a relative’s lips I felt like I was closer to her, and I wanted to be as close to her as I possibly could.

When I was younger, my mom would always tell me that Grandma Joan was my guardian angel. A smile would spread across my face and I would look up to the heart sized ceramic angel that had my Grandmother’s curly hair and deep eyes staring watchfully down on me. I learned soon enough that it was hard for my mom to tell the stories about her mother. I hated to see her eyes well up with tears whenever we would watch a movie with a loving mother-daughter scene. My mom was only 26 when her mom died after a long fight with lung cancer. I knew it was hard for my mom and I didn't want to make it worse by always asking about her. Eventually, I just replayed the stories I had heard over the years in my head, imagining my Grandma Joan actually telling them to me. Over the years, I've tried to learn everything I can about her, and I discovered that we were more alike than I had ever known. She was a highly recognizable singer in her singing group called the "Sweet Adelines." They won many contests all over the country. My mother even had a necklace with a music note on it hanging in her car that my grandma won in a Hawaii competition. I spent half the car rides with my mom begging to have the necklace, or even to wear it once. Her answer was always a no, it was my mom’s good luck charm while she was driving, one of he few things left behind from her mother.

Is it strange to love someone so much whom you've never? There are movie stars and singers that people love without knowing them, but I wonder how unusual it is to want to be so, close to someone that has passed? People have told me so even saying that it's unhealthy, I need to let the past go. I try to keep that in mind, but my grandma isn't a flower, or a cloud, or a ring. I'm not going to just admire her, then forget. She's a part of me. Whether I was born with her being a part of me, or all of my studying about this inspiring women, made her apart of me. I just know that we are cut from the same cloth. When I was younger, I used to write notes to her and hide them behind her picture. I dreamt about her and always felt like she was there, she had to be there. I still believe that she is guardian angel.

At the age of 13, I learned that my mom had breast cancer. I crumbled. Would my mom die too? I had never even met my grandma and yet I missed her so much, my mind and heart couldn't even comprehend the thought of losing the person who I looked up to with such fond eyes, my best friend. It was a warm spring day. The day the news of my mom came. I was the one to answer the phone when the doctor called. The shine in my mom’s velvet brown eyes made me only believe that she was fine. It was when her face crumpled and twisted into an expression of confusion that I knew something was wrong. Then her lips started moving "I...have cancer." It wasn't a question, just a repetition of what the doctor had said. I cried a little, then talked to my friends and family on the phone. They all said the same thing; "You're mom will get through this. She's a strong person." I wanted to scream at them, telling them that cancer was strong too! The voice in my head cried out with sorrow like a mourning birds voice in the early morning, "I've already lost my grandma! Half of my relatives were there to see that happen! Why can't someone just tell me what's going to happen?” Why can't Grandma Joan be here to help us through this!" I ran outside into the unusually warm spring day and down the hill in my backyard. I picked up a flower and slowly pulled one pedal off at a time. Each one fell with a wish I was dreaming to come true.

After all of the seventeen lacy, white pedals had drifted towards the ground I looked at what was left of the flower I had ripped apart. I felt like I was that flower, with all my hopes just pulled away. I layed down in the grass, just staring at the light blue sky with scattered pieces of fluffy clouds. "Are you there Grandma Joan?" I thought. Was I going insane talking to nothing? A lump formed in my throat and I couldn't swallow or breathe. What if Grandma Joan isn't watching over me. I could have just created this whole story of how she new me and loved me as much as I loved her. What if she wasn't my guardian angel not even there. Tears formed. I couldn't believe that. Then as crazy as I was, I just started talking to her: "I don't know if you're there are not but I can't think that you haven't been there. My life will change so much if I do, I just need to believe that you are there, even if it isn't true. If you are there please hear me, let me know that every thing will be fine. I love you."

I stopped caring how much of a lunatic I sounded like and just let it go. A slight breeze came down from the trees, blowing past my hair, and making the wind chimes sing. I just knew then that everything would be fine. Month after month I gave my mom hugs and always told her, "You'll be fine, I promise." She'd give me a speech about how I couldn't promise that but I just smiled. I think we both felt like Grandma Joan was there with us throughout the whole ordeal.

After one whole year I was 14 and my mom was cancer free. I was still obsessed as ever with finding more about my grandmother. After one day of being home alone, and cleaning, I found something that completely changed my day. I was wiping off a dresser in my mom’s room and a thick manilla envelope fell down. I picked it up and then opened it. The first thing I saw was a letter addressed to my mom from my Grandma. I read it twice while I traced my finger over the words. Then I found two pictures of my Grandma Joan. They were in black and white, and slightly torn, but it didn't matter. They were her prom pictures. She was beautiful. I don't know how long I stared at it, but I did stop once my mom came home. That night, my mom showed me a ring that was my grandmother’s. It was gold and had a pearl right on top. It didn't fit my finger but I knew it was mine. I found an old necklace chain and put the ring on it. Whenever I need strength, hope or love, I just hold the necklace as it hangs right above my heart.

That night, I looked out the window and saw the stars shining with the full moon that gave off the same shimmering of the pearl on the necklace. I slowly crept down the stairs missing all the creaky steps, and into my yard. The grass was damp as my feet slowly, crept across it. I laid down in the grass just like the day I heard the news about my mom’s cancer. I stared at the stars until my eyelids felt heavy. The moon made my pale skin glow in the night. I heard once that stars are souls looking down at the ones they love. I looked back at the stars again and couldn't help but believe that my Grandma Joan was watching me. The crickets echoed around the sleeping neighborhood, and the frogs burped in harmony. The wind blew causing a whole new symphony to begin. Grandma Joan was my guardian angel, my smile, the stars in the sky, the music to my world.

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